Illinois teenager who pitched hearing aid legislation for national award

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ILLIOPOLIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Hunter Martin began his political career six years ago — and he’s just 13.

Now he’s a student finalist for a national award to recognize his work fighting for hearing aid legislation.

“I never imagined it would happen later in my life, but I’m pretty happy about it because it’s been such a great experience and I never thought it would happen,” he said.

The Oticon Focus on People award is given to people with hearing loss. Applicants are judged on their accomplishments.

“It would mean a lot to me [to win],” he said. “Knowing that my accomplishments and accomplishments are recognized and other people know what I’ve done.”

For Hunter, his legislative efforts set him apart.

“I started legislating when I was seven…Since then I’ve been talking to senators and legislators to get things passed.”

Martin hunter, 13 years old

Before that, his mother, Ramona Martin, started her own journey to find affordable hearing aids after learning that two of her children would need them.

“I started working and trying to figure out how to get hearing aids covered when my insurance told me they were cosmetic,” she said.

At the time, Illinois did not require insurance companies to cover hearing aids, so children were only covered for early intervention until their third birthday. This meant families had to pay the rest out of pocket.

Ramona began working with lawmakers, and when Hunter was seven, he told his mother he wanted to try speaking to the committee himself.

“I said, ‘You’re only seven years old, and he’s fine, fine, I can do it.’ Then we went to the house insurance committee and Hunter got up and spoke, he wrote down what he wanted to say, and he was awesome.

ramona martin

Ramona couldn’t be happier with her willingness to help others.

“Proud doesn’t start covering it. He’s an amazing kid, from athletics to academics to bills. He just has the will to do it all. He wants to give 300% in everything he does and he makes us proud every day,” she said.

In 2018, at the age of 10, Hunter supported Governor Bruce Rauner as he signed Bill 4516 into law that would require all insurance companies to cover hearing aids for children until they turned 18. .

Although it was his proudest moment, it turned out to be bittersweet for the family.

“Right after the bill was signed, self-funded insurance wouldn’t cover hearing loss no matter what because it was self-funded,” he said.

Despite the hiccups, Hunter persevered.

“I had to send letters to many different companies to get them to cover it and allow insurance to cover and pay for the hearing aids,” he said.

The letter-sending campaign was successful and dozens of companies changed their policies.

“It’s just great to see him wanting to do well and wanting to succeed,” his mother said.

Now a teenager, Hunter’s goal is to create national legislation to help the hearing impaired.

“From the west coast to the east coast for insurance coverage is the goal.”

HUNTER MARTIN, 13 YEARS OLD

To vote for Hunter, click here. Voting closes Friday, December 17.

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